DIY Network

How to Grow Malabar Spinach

Malabar spinach is a vining tropical plant that is grown for its edible stems and leaves. It is a great substitute for spinach when the hot weather sets in.

More in Outdoors

plant malabar spinach around newly built trellises
  • Time

    Several Weekends

  • Price Range

    $1 - $50

  • Difficulty



Step 1: Purchase the Seeds

Malabar spinach is a vining tropical plant that is grown as an annual in cooler climates. It is cultivated for its edible stems and leaves. There are two main varieties: red-stemmed and white-stemmed. This fast-growing leafy vegetable is easily started from seed sown directly in the garden.

malabar spinach is vining plant used in cooking

Step 2: Prepare the Site

Malabar spinach prefers a sunny site with fertile, well-drained soil. Work a generous amount of organic soil conditioner into the soil with a garden fork. Add some slow-release 10-10-10 fertilizer to the site as well.

Step 3: Install the Trellis

Malabar spinach is a climbing plant that can reach 8' to 10' in height. Purchase or construct a support on which the plant can climb and place it in the garden site. Attach the trellis to the ground with stakes, sandbags or other heavy objects to keep it from blowing down in a storm.

final trellis has 5 horizontal support bars

Step 4: Plant the Seeds

Soak the seeds in water the night before planting. In spring, sow seeds 1/4" deep and approximately 18" apart. Cover with soil and water well. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate.

Step 5: Cultivate the Plants

When seeds germinate pour liquid fertilizer over the seedlings, making sure to wet all of the leaves. Add a thin layer of straw mulch to hold in the moisture and help prevent weeds. Malabar spinach doesn't have many pests or diseases. If the plant gets too big, simply cut it back.

add thin layer of wheat straw mulch to seedlings

Step 6: Harvest the Malabar Spinach

Because you eat the leaves and the stems, Malabar spinach can be harvested as soon as the main stem is growing well. Snip the leaves and tender stems with scissors as needed. Harvest before the vine flowers for the best flavor.

cut spinach when ready to use rather than storing